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Design pitfall to avoid: Product definition is paramount

Posted: 05 Nov 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:sales brochure  design  embedded  module 

While there is a huge risk involved in developing a new product, it should not be a hit and miss kind of thing. The design process should always be within the boundaries of what can be considered as a calculated risk. The first concept is usually big and bold. Just remember to think of the details first.

For example, we decided to design a module that will allow embedded measurement under Linux, use the latest, greatest ARM chip, and exploit the hidden virtues of its internals. The result will be a fabulous product that will measure real time signals at high accuracy and use very low power within an embedded system, all at a very low price.

That's the first wave of the product definition. Then comes the second wave. Basic questions come up. Who will buy it? What market is it aimed at? Do we have the resources? Has sales asked for this?

These are all good questions and we have to do our best to answer them up front. But let's face it, no one knows the exact answers. Sure, we'll put together a product definition, put a cost goal together, get input from sales, and even target the resources to get it done. But we are on a quest! We've dreamed it up and we can't get bogged down by naysayers. So let's just get started and figure it out as we go. If we don't, someone else will beat us to the punch, and we'll have egg on our faces.

In my experience, this is the normal approach for big new ventures. So, what is the normal outcome of this approach?

Design process pitfall

The development gets started. Engineering has the concept and their vision the product. Sure, there's much to be learned, discovered, vendors to get information from, engineering meetings to decide who does what and a schedule to get to the next phase.

The ideal process would be to work hard on a detailed definition of what the product will be that gets delivered in the future. In other words, do the brochure first that the customer will see as the end product. Show pictures, customer apps, etc. of what would go in the final product.

Unfortunately, this seldom happens. Why? It seems so logical and smart to do this. But it doesn't happen. Each group goes off to figure out their part of the product. There is so much to learn by each group and it comes in totally asynchronously to every other group working on the product. Rather than stop to wait for others to catch up, each group continues with their idea of what the product should be.

Design pitfall

Designers should always keep in mind product definitions.

But this doesn't have to happen. Hone the product definition with exact definitions and specifications at regular intervals. Often, the powers that be think this just holds up progress. But the opposite occurs. More up front work on exactly what the product is to be delivered, results in a faster time to market, more satisfied customers, an energised sales team and higher profit.

In my case, the module was built and ready for production. Now if I had only seen that the connector scheme was not ideal. Our approach made it hard for the customer to quickly evaluate our module. The ensuing next module to follow-on should have a better approach. We bit the bullet by going back and revising the first module. But changes costs money, time, etc.

If I had only thought through that sooner.

- Fred Molinari
  Data Translation

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